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What To Look For When Buying A Car

Updated on June 4, 2011

Buying a used car can be an extremely stressful time especially if you don't know what you are looking for,sure you know what kind of car you want and you know that you want it to have a full mot and a good amount of road tax and you also know how much you are willing to pay for it but that's about it,if you are not mechanically minded or have the first clue about how to spot a clocked car or how to spot a car that might possibly have a dodgy mot then i will let you know what to check so this will put your mind at ease slightly.Dont get me wrong i am not going to tell you one hundred percent that the car is going to be ok but i can give you the information you need for you to make an informed decision about weather the car is generally ok or not.


This is the number one thing you need to do,most normal hpi check sites charge around £30 for three checks and the things they check are vital,they will check for hire purchase agreements that are still outstanding as well as checking to see if the vehicle has been written off at any point and check to makes sure that the log book is correct and not forged and that the vehicle has not been recorded as stolen,these checks are priceless and if you have your mind set on a car it really is worth it,the information you will need for these checks is as follows,you will need the registration number,the VIN number which will be on a plate under the bonnet or at the bottom of the windscreen,you should match these numbers up with the v5 which is the logbook for the vehicle,if these do not match up or the address on the v5 doesn't match where you are buying the car from then walk will also need the mileage and the certificate number from the v5 certificate.This means that if you buy a vehicle and you have entered all this information to the website and it still turns out to be dodgy then you have some kind of comeback.

Looking Around The Vehicle

When looking around the vehicle there are a few things you can check to save yourself some money and heartache should you decide to buy the vehicle,firstly you should check the condition and tread depth of the tyres,this simple check will only take 5 or so minutes but when you consider that a set of four tyres will cost you well over £150 on a small hatchback then you will see it is time well spent,Simply look around the sidewall for signs of cracking and then check to make sure there is a good amount of tread on them,if there Isn't then you can use this as a bartering subject to get the price down.

Also other things to look out for when walking around the car are parking dents,most cars have them but this is also a case for knocking the price down,the best way to see these is to go to the front or back of the vehicle and kneel down to door height and get close to the paintwork and scan your eyes down the length of the car,most dents should be visible.Also check for any cracked lights or any cracks in the windscreen as these can have a habit of getting worse very quickly

Under The Hood

Ok so lets get down to the nitty gritty,we need to have a look at the engine and see what kind of state it is in.You don't have to be a mechanical engineer to see if its in good shape or not,firstly just scan over and look to see how clean it is,a clean engine bay will indicate that its owner has looked after it,check for perishing on the fan belt if you can get to it and most batteries these days have power indicators on top so you can easily see if the battery is in good condition.While your under the hood check for any obvious leaks,follow the pipes and hoses around the engine to see where they stop and then check for leaks there too,if there are any leaks then ask why and see if they can be rectified before putting in an offer.Check to make sure the brake fluid is a good colour ie amber as appose to black and check the level is correct as if it is low this may indicate either a leak or worn brake pads.

Other than the above without getting the vehicle on an inspection ramp and having a qualified mechanic with you it is hard to tell if a vehicle is in really good condition,just use your judgement and make sure the hpi check is done so as at least that way you know it is not stolen or have finance still outstanding,follow the checks i have suggested and if you see anything your not sure about don't be afraid to question it and or knock the price down.Happy hunting!!


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    • profile image

      Sarah Hill 6 years ago

      I like using when I search for used cars. I rarely buy new but if I did then I would use your tips. Thanks!

    • suejanet profile image

      suejanet 7 years ago

      Great information. I am in the market for a new car and cannot decide new or used, buy or lease. This was helpful.

    • katrinasui profile image

      katrinasui 7 years ago

      A very useful hub. I was searching for something like this.

    • profile image

      carstereos 7 years ago

      Ummm, it was interesting.

    • profile image

      car blogger 7 years ago

      Nice tips..... I must follow your tips while buying a new car.

    • JD Barlow profile image

      JD Barlow 7 years ago from Southeast US

      Great hub. You have some very good tips for what to look for when shopping for a new car.

    • Curt_Swinndorf profile image

      Curt_Swinndorf 7 years ago from Germany

      Hi warchild,

      I actually wrote an almost similar hub. I think our two hubs really complement each other (for example I forgot about the brake pads). Check out my hub if you are interested. I think there might be some interesting new facts for you too. Good work!